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amuse bouche

I love quotes that add meaning to my life. Here are a few to live by:

How should I eat? (Not too much)
—Michael Pollan

If it is so difficult to learn to cook, how did all those early pioneer women manage to cross the country in rugged covered wagons and feed troops of people from one big pot hung over an open fire?
—Marion Cunningham, from Learning to Cook

Treat treats as treats.
—Michael Pollan

No matter how you slice it through, grain-fed meat production systems are a drain on the global food supply.
—Jonathan A. Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment, U of MN

Food for the Soul as well as the Body: Shojin Ryori

Apple blossoms in Japan in spring

Apple blossoms in Japan in spring

Japan for the First Time
Late last March, I traveled to Japan for the first time. I knew I would enjoy the beauty of ancient temples and palaces, and, I knew I would be thrilled by the bullet trains and high-tech innovation of contemporary Japanese society, but I had no idea how much the food of Japan would satisfy my body as well as touch my soul.

A Sushi Expert
When I returned from my trip, I had a delightful lunch with a friend, Hiroko Shimbo. Hiroko is the author of a number of very intelligent books on Japanese cooking: The Japanese Kitchen, Hiroko’s American Kitchen and the book edited by my stepmother Judith Jones, The Sushi Experience. All are cookbooks that help the American home cook understand Japanese cuisine. The Sushi Experience, is a thoughtful and detailed book—a terrific way to become proficient at this popular Japanese specialty. Hiroko is one of the few Japanese women considered to have mastered this ancient culinary expertise.

Of All the Delicious Meals

herbs and vegetable for a Shojin Ryori lunch

Display of herbs and vegetables for the Shojin Ryori lunch at Shoryakuji Monastery


But, the reason for my lunch with Hiroko was not to ask about sushi, but to find out what she knew about another unique cooking style from her native country, the vegetarian cooking

technique called, Shojin Ryori. Of all the remarkable meals I enjoyed on my trip, the one that remains in my memory as the most delicious and most satisfying is a Shojin Ryori lunch prepared by monks in a mountain monastery outside of Nara.

Japanese silk screen

A silk screen, one of the many treasures of ancient Japan.

A Beautiful Place
We talked about the day I discovered Shojin Ryori and I described my trip by chartered bus, climbing the mountain road as it negotiated the hairpin turns along the way to reach the monastery.  I was exhilarated to be in the cool air of the uplands outside of the tranquil city of Nara and hungry for lunch. The whirlwind of touring activity in Kyoto had been a prelude to the calm of Nara, a city known for its many temples and beautiful parks where diminutive deer run free and cherry trees are considered a national treasure. So, I thought, this side-trip to visit a monastery was just another beautiful afternoon in a beautiful place.

In retrospect, I wish I’d had Hiroko by my side for this trip, I was completely at home with the local cuisine even switching to Japanese breakfasts by the second day of the trip. But nothing I’d eaten so far had prepared me for the remarkable lunch I was to have that day.

A Remarkable Feast
Ushered onto the Shoryakuji Monastery grounds, shoes left at the doorstep of the temple entrance, my tour group, mostly lay Buddhists from Sante Fe and the West Coast, filed down a narrow hallway that led to a large airy tatami-floored dining

Lunch at a monastery in Kyoto

Lunch at a monastery in Kyoto

area. Along the way members of the kitchen staff pointed out a display of herbs and vegetables labeled in English.

A New Eating Experience
At low lacquered tables, our group sat and watched with interest as we were served a myriad of dishes, each one a perfect jewel of preparation and design. It seemed to me that even the plates that held the many courses of the extensive menu were chosen for the way they complimented the vegetables they contained. It was a Pandora’s Box of a lunch, each dish a treasure unto itself, yet each one in perfect harmony with all the others. There were a few exceptions, but basically I had no idea what I was eating. In the process, I was definitely transported by the monastery meal into a unique version of Japanese heaven by both new flavors and new textures, and something else, indefinable, as though my spirit had been engaged. It was an entirely new eating experience.

A Meditation
Only when I’d had lunch with Hiroko Shimbo in New York a month later, did I begin to understand that the lunch I’d had in Japan is as much a meditation as it is a cuisine style. The Shojin Ryori practitioner’s understanding of how certain herbs and vegetables effect our bodies health and well-being is as important as the meditative way Shojin Ryori is prepared.  I found Hiroko’s explanation of Shojin Ryori so interesting, I asked her to share it with my blog readers. Take a look at Hiroko’s description of this 7th century vegetarian cooking style still practiced in Japan. It’s her contribution to the Spoon Fed Stories section of my blog.

And, as always, let me know what you think!

bronwyn-signature

Posted: 8-1-2014

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Japan for the First Time
Late last March, I traveled to Japan for the first time. I knew I would enjoy the beauty of ancient temples and palaces, and, I knew I would be thrilled by the bullet trains and high-tech innovation of contemporary Japanese society, but I had no idea how much the food of Japan would satisfy my body as well as touch my soul.

A Sushi Expert
When I returned from my trip, I had a delightful lunch with a friend, Hiroko Shimbo. Hiroko is the author of a number of very intelligent books on Japanese cooking: The Japanese Kitchen, Hiroko’s American Kitchen and the book edited by my stepmother Judith Jones, The Sushi Experience. All are cookbooks that help the American home cook understand Japanese cuisine. The Sushi Experience, is a thoughtful and detailed book—a terrific way to become proficient at this popular Japanese specialty. Hiroko is one of the few Japanese women considered to have mastered this ancient culinary expertise.

Of All the Delicious Meals

[caption id="attachment_3423" align="alignright" width="300"]herbs and vegetable for a Shojin Ryori lunch Display of herbs and vegetables for the Shojin Ryori lunch at Shoryakuji Monastery[/caption]


But, the reason for my lunch with Hiroko was not to ask about sushi, but to find out what she knew about another unique cooking style from her native country, the vegetarian cooking

technique called, Shojin Ryori. Of all the remarkable meals I enjoyed on my trip, the one that remains in my memory as the most delicious and most satisfying is a Shojin Ryori lunch prepared by monks in a mountain monastery outside of Nara.

[caption id="attachment_3427" align="alignleft" width="300"]Japanese silk screen A silk screen, one of the many treasures of ancient Japan.[/caption]

A Beautiful Place
We talked about the day I discovered Shojin Ryori and I described my trip by chartered bus, climbing the mountain road as it negotiated the hairpin turns along the way to reach the monastery.  I was exhilarated to be in the cool air of the uplands outside of the tranquil city of Nara and hungry for lunch. The whirlwind of touring activity in Kyoto had been a prelude to the calm of Nara, a city known for its many temples and beautiful parks where diminutive deer run free and cherry trees are considered a national treasure. So, I thought, this side-trip to visit a monastery was just another beautiful afternoon in a beautiful place.

In retrospect, I wish I’d had Hiroko by my side for this trip, I was completely at home with the local cuisine even switching to Japanese breakfasts by the second day of the trip. But nothing I’d eaten so far had prepared me for the remarkable lunch I was to have that day.

A Remarkable Feast
Ushered onto the Shoryakuji Monastery grounds, shoes left at the doorstep of the temple entrance, my tour group, mostly lay Buddhists from Sante Fe and the West Coast, filed down a narrow hallway that led to a large airy tatami-floored dining

[caption id="attachment_3422" align="alignleft" width="300"]Lunch at a monastery in Kyoto Lunch at a monastery in Kyoto[/caption]

area. Along the way members of the kitchen staff pointed out a display of herbs and vegetables labeled in English.

A New Eating Experience
At low lacquered tables, our group sat and watched with interest as we were served a myriad of dishes, each one a perfect jewel of preparation and design. It seemed to me that even the plates that held the many courses of the extensive menu were chosen for the way they complimented the vegetables they contained. It was a Pandora’s Box of a lunch, each dish a treasure unto itself, yet each one in perfect harmony with all the others. There were a few exceptions, but basically I had no idea what I was eating. In the process, I was definitely transported by the monastery meal into a unique version of Japanese heaven by both new flavors and new textures, and something else, indefinable, as though my spirit had been engaged. It was an entirely new eating experience.

A Meditation
Only when I’d had lunch with Hiroko Shimbo in New York a month later, did I begin to understand that the lunch I’d had in Japan is as much a meditation as it is a cuisine style. The Shojin Ryori practitioner’s understanding of how certain herbs and vegetables effect our bodies health and well-being is as important as the meditative way Shojin Ryori is prepared.  I found Hiroko’s explanation of Shojin Ryori so interesting, I asked her to share it with my blog readers. Take a look at Hiroko's description of this 7th century vegetarian cooking style still practiced in Japan. It’s her contribution to the Spoon Fed Stories section of my blog.

And, as always, let me know what you think!

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Japan for the First Time
Late last March, I traveled to Japan for the first time. I knew I would enjoy the beauty of ancient temples and palaces, and, I knew I would be thrilled by the bullet trains and high-tech innovation of contemporary Japanese society, but I had no idea how much the food of Japan would satisfy my body as well as touch my soul.

A Sushi Expert
When I returned from my trip, I had a delightful lunch with a friend, Hiroko Shimbo. Hiroko is the author of a number of very intelligent books on Japanese cooking: The Japanese Kitchen, Hiroko’s American Kitchen and the book edited by my stepmother Judith Jones, The Sushi Experience. All are cookbooks that help the American home cook understand Japanese cuisine. The Sushi Experience, is a thoughtful and detailed book—a terrific way to become proficient at this popular Japanese specialty. Hiroko is one of the few Japanese women considered to have mastered this ancient culinary expertise.

Of All the Delicious Meals

[caption id="attachment_3423" align="alignright" width="300"]herbs and vegetable for a Shojin Ryori lunch Display of herbs and vegetables for the Shojin Ryori lunch at Shoryakuji Monastery[/caption]


But, the reason for my lunch with Hiroko was not to ask about sushi, but to find out what she knew about another unique cooking style from her native country, the vegetarian cooking

technique called, Shojin Ryori. Of all the remarkable meals I enjoyed on my trip, the one that remains in my memory as the most delicious and most satisfying is a Shojin Ryori lunch prepared by monks in a mountain monastery outside of Nara.

[caption id="attachment_3427" align="alignleft" width="300"]Japanese silk screen A silk screen, one of the many treasures of ancient Japan.[/caption]

A Beautiful Place
We talked about the day I discovered Shojin Ryori and I described my trip by chartered bus, climbing the mountain road as it negotiated the hairpin turns along the way to reach the monastery.  I was exhilarated to be in the cool air of the uplands outside of the tranquil city of Nara and hungry for lunch. The whirlwind of touring activity in Kyoto had been a prelude to the calm of Nara, a city known for its many temples and beautiful parks where diminutive deer run free and cherry trees are considered a national treasure. So, I thought, this side-trip to visit a monastery was just another beautiful afternoon in a beautiful place.

In retrospect, I wish I’d had Hiroko by my side for this trip, I was completely at home with the local cuisine even switching to Japanese breakfasts by the second day of the trip. But nothing I’d eaten so far had prepared me for the remarkable lunch I was to have that day.

A Remarkable Feast
Ushered onto the Shoryakuji Monastery grounds, shoes left at the doorstep of the temple entrance, my tour group, mostly lay Buddhists from Sante Fe and the West Coast, filed down a narrow hallway that led to a large airy tatami-floored dining

[caption id="attachment_3422" align="alignleft" width="300"]Lunch at a monastery in Kyoto Lunch at a monastery in Kyoto[/caption]

area. Along the way members of the kitchen staff pointed out a display of herbs and vegetables labeled in English.

A New Eating Experience
At low lacquered tables, our group sat and watched with interest as we were served a myriad of dishes, each one a perfect jewel of preparation and design. It seemed to me that even the plates that held the many courses of the extensive menu were chosen for the way they complimented the vegetables they contained. It was a Pandora’s Box of a lunch, each dish a treasure unto itself, yet each one in perfect harmony with all the others. There were a few exceptions, but basically I had no idea what I was eating. In the process, I was definitely transported by the monastery meal into a unique version of Japanese heaven by both new flavors and new textures, and something else, indefinable, as though my spirit had been engaged. It was an entirely new eating experience.

A Meditation
Only when I’d had lunch with Hiroko Shimbo in New York a month later, did I begin to understand that the lunch I’d had in Japan is as much a meditation as it is a cuisine style. The Shojin Ryori practitioner’s understanding of how certain herbs and vegetables effect our bodies health and well-being is as important as the meditative way Shojin Ryori is prepared.  I found Hiroko’s explanation of Shojin Ryori so interesting, I asked her to share it with my blog readers. Take a look at Hiroko's description of this 7th century vegetarian cooking style still practiced in Japan. It’s her contribution to the Spoon Fed Stories section of my blog.

And, as always, let me know what you think!

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Japan for the First Time
Late last March, I traveled to Japan for the first time. I knew I would enjoy the beauty of ancient temples and palaces, and, I knew I would be thrilled by the bullet trains and high-tech innovation of contemporary Japanese society, but I had no idea how much the food of Japan would satisfy my body as well as touch my soul.

A Sushi Expert
When I returned from my trip, I had a delightful lunch with a friend, Hiroko Shimbo. Hiroko is the author of a number of very intelligent books on Japanese cooking: The Japanese Kitchen, Hiroko’s American Kitchen and the book edited by my stepmother Judith Jones, The Sushi Experience. All are cookbooks that help the American home cook understand Japanese cuisine. The Sushi Experience, is a thoughtful and detailed book—a terrific way to become proficient at this popular Japanese specialty. Hiroko is one of the few Japanese women considered to have mastered this ancient culinary expertise.

Of All the Delicious Meals

[caption id="attachment_3423" align="alignright" width="300"]herbs and vegetable for a Shojin Ryori lunch Display of herbs and vegetables for the Shojin Ryori lunch at Shoryakuji Monastery[/caption]


But, the reason for my lunch with Hiroko was not to ask about sushi, but to find out what she knew about another unique cooking style from her native country, the vegetarian cooking

technique called, Shojin Ryori. Of all the remarkable meals I enjoyed on my trip, the one that remains in my memory as the most delicious and most satisfying is a Shojin Ryori lunch prepared by monks in a mountain monastery outside of Nara.

[caption id="attachment_3427" align="alignleft" width="300"]Japanese silk screen A silk screen, one of the many treasures of ancient Japan.[/caption]

A Beautiful Place
We talked about the day I discovered Shojin Ryori and I described my trip by chartered bus, climbing the mountain road as it negotiated the hairpin turns along the way to reach the monastery.  I was exhilarated to be in the cool air of the uplands outside of the tranquil city of Nara and hungry for lunch. The whirlwind of touring activity in Kyoto had been a prelude to the calm of Nara, a city known for its many temples and beautiful parks where diminutive deer run free and cherry trees are considered a national treasure. So, I thought, this side-trip to visit a monastery was just another beautiful afternoon in a beautiful place.

In retrospect, I wish I’d had Hiroko by my side for this trip, I was completely at home with the local cuisine even switching to Japanese breakfasts by the second day of the trip. But nothing I’d eaten so far had prepared me for the remarkable lunch I was to have that day.

A Remarkable Feast
Ushered onto the Shoryakuji Monastery grounds, shoes left at the doorstep of the temple entrance, my tour group, mostly lay Buddhists from Sante Fe and the West Coast, filed down a narrow hallway that led to a large airy tatami-floored dining

[caption id="attachment_3422" align="alignleft" width="300"]Lunch at a monastery in Kyoto Lunch at a monastery in Kyoto[/caption]

area. Along the way members of the kitchen staff pointed out a display of herbs and vegetables labeled in English.

A New Eating Experience
At low lacquered tables, our group sat and watched with interest as we were served a myriad of dishes, each one a perfect jewel of preparation and design. It seemed to me that even the plates that held the many courses of the extensive menu were chosen for the way they complimented the vegetables they contained. It was a Pandora’s Box of a lunch, each dish a treasure unto itself, yet each one in perfect harmony with all the others. There were a few exceptions, but basically I had no idea what I was eating. In the process, I was definitely transported by the monastery meal into a unique version of Japanese heaven by both new flavors and new textures, and something else, indefinable, as though my spirit had been engaged. It was an entirely new eating experience.

A Meditation
Only when I’d had lunch with Hiroko Shimbo in New York a month later, did I begin to understand that the lunch I’d had in Japan is as much a meditation as it is a cuisine style. The Shojin Ryori practitioner’s understanding of how certain herbs and vegetables effect our bodies health and well-being is as important as the meditative way Shojin Ryori is prepared.  I found Hiroko’s explanation of Shojin Ryori so interesting, I asked her to share it with my blog readers. Take a look at Hiroko's description of this 7th century vegetarian cooking style still practiced in Japan. It’s her contribution to the Spoon Fed Stories section of my blog.

And, as always, let me know what you think!

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2 responses to “Food for the Soul as well as the Body: Shojin Ryori”

  1. Loved this post! Wonderful to hear again about your incredible trip. You always endeavor to write in such a way as to enable your readers to live vicariously!

    Christine F.

  2. Thank you, dear Christine. It is always so good to read your comments on my posts. I had such a great experience in Japan!

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